08/20/2008 11:00PM

Horses given steroids face 30-day ban


DEL MAR, Calif. - Horses treated with anabolic steroids will be banned from racing for 30 days in California from the date of administration, effective Friday, according to a directive issued by California Horse Racing Board executive director Kirk Reed, the regulatory agency announced Thursday.

The board also is increasing pre-race and out-of-competition testing for the anabolic steroids boldenone, nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone, according to a statement released Thursday. Those steroids are the only ones allowed to appear in post-race tests.

The racing board is phasing in strict penalties for steroid violations this summer.

In May, the racing board advised trainers to begin withdrawing their horses from steroids to be in compliance with rules approved earlier this year allowing only trace levels of anabolic steroids in post-race tests.

Beginning July 1, trainers were given a "notice" if their horses tested in excess of the permitted levels, but they faced no sanctions. From Aug. 1, trainers were given a "warning" for steroid violations. The warnings will stay on a trainer's permanent record, pending the results of a split sample and a hearing.

On Sept. 4, the racing board is enacting much tougher penalties, including a loss of purses and a fine and/or suspension for trainers whose horses tested in excess of the permitted levels.

"We will have no sympathy for any owners or trainers who flaunt our rules," said racing board vice chairman John Harris.

At Tuesday's meeting, Rick Arthur, the racing board's equine medical director, said that 38 horses tested in excess of permitted levels of steroids from 418 tested since July 1.

The formation of a veterinarian's list for horses administered steroids is similar to existing lists for sick and injured horses. Trainers are required to report horses who have been administered steroids to the track veterinarian.

"During their recovery period, those horses will not be allowed to race," said racing board chairman Richard Shapiro. "This is reasonable in all respects. It protects the horse, the other participants, and the public."

Large fields for weekend cards

After nearly five weeks of race programs marred by small fields and disappointing quality, racing on Saturday and Sunday offers much a brighter version of the sport.

Saturday's nine-race program has drawn 101 entries, though there will be fewer starters. Three of the races have also-eligible lists. Sunday's 11-race program drew 124 horses and has five also-eligible lists.

Tom Robbins, Del Mar's director of racing, expects field sizes to be strong through the end of the meeting on Sept. 3. He said there have been "an unusual amount" of horsemen asking for specific races before the end of the meeting.

That has not been the case in recent weeks, with a high number of races for maiden claimers and small fields. Wednesday's eight-race program featured just 62 runners.

Through Wednesday, field sizes have averaged 8.24 horses per race. Last year, for the entire 43-day meeting, field sizes averaged 8.63 runners per race.

Reasons for the decline in field sizes have included horses sidelined by injury and some trainers who are reluctant to start horses that were recently administered steroids.

Four graded stakes on Sunday card

Sunday's four graded stakes have drawn large fields - 10 entrants in the $200,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap, 12 in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap, 11 in the $400,000 Del Mar Mile (which will be limited to 10 runners), and 11 in the $1 million Pacific Classic.

The four stakes are part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program offering automatic berths to Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita on Oct. 24-25, subject to the payment of entry fees.

Dearest Trickski and Magnificience, the first two finishers of the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 28, are the leading contenders in the Rancho Bernardo for fillies and mares over 6 1/2 furlongs.

Midnight Lute, the 2007 champion sprinter, makes his 2008 debut in the Pat O'Brien Handicap over seven furlongs. He has 11 rivals, including In Summation, a troubled second in the Bing Crosby Handicap here July 27.

The Del Mar Mile is led by Monzante, Whatsthescript, and Storm Military, the first three finishers of the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on turf on July 20.

Up and down day for Gomez

After Hyperbaric won Wednesday's $86,360 Harry Brubaker Handicap, jockey Garrett Gomez was ready to take the rest of the day off. He had won the featured race, but it was not a perfect afternoon.

In the preceding race, Gomez was unseated from Bella Dancer on the backstretch of a starter allowance over six furlongs. Gomez was slow to rise after the spill. He said landing on Del Mar's synthetic Polytrack surface is not easy to shake off.

"It's not hard but it's tacky and sticky," he said. "It's like a bubble gum. It's a jarring effect. It takes a second to get the cobwebs out."

Gomez said Bella Dancer "was acting funny in the post parade." After the start, Gomez urged her away from the gate. He said that she ducked to the inside when he shifted his weight slightly. "When I did that, she made a left," he said.

Hyperbaric, owned by Prestonwood Farm, was a much easier ride. Sent off as the 7-5 favorite, Hypbaric ($4.80) won the turf race by 2 1/4 lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:40.01.

The win vaulted Hyperbaric into contention for the $200,000 Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, according to trainer Julio Canani.

"I wanted to get his confidence back," Canani said. "Now, he's in the right place."